When the Los Angeles Lakers brought back Magic Johnson last week as an adviser to team owner Jeanie Buss, there was a widespread sense that sweeping changes in the front office were on the horizon.
Part-owner and vice president Jim Buss is rapidly approaching his self-imposed deadline to rebuild the Lakers into a contender in the Western Conference. Barring a miraculous swing before the trade deadline that can fix the Lakers overnight, Buss is going to come up well short on the vision he had for the team at this point.
Enter Johnson, a week after rejoining the franchise he won five NBA championships with, and already eyeing a larger role than just an advisory position. Johnson will reportedly be involved with the Lakers’ efforts at the trade deadline, and he explained what type of role he eventually wants within the organization in an interview with Josh Peter of USA Today Sports (h/t Honi Ahmadian of Lakers Outsiders).
“Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ Johnson told USA TODAY Sports when asked what he hopes his role with the franchise will be. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be?
“So, we’ll see what happens.’’
Johnson acknowledged that a number of things with the Lakers, both on and off the court are going to take time. Earning that type of role is certainly no exception, but Johnson is already studying up on the league’s new collective bargaining agreement. Since talent evaluation “comes easy” for Magic, he wants to learn the ins and outs of the business side of running an NBA franchise.
“The main part for me is really learning the other part that I didn’t know, and that is to understand the CBA, the salary cap, where we are in terms of the salary cap and who’s a free-agent-to-be,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of things, but I’m excited. I’ve been working on all of those things, and then meeting with the staff.’’
While it definitely appears Johnson is preparing for a major role in running the Lakers, he did stress in the interview that the front office needs to work together to build the franchise into a winner once again, including constant communication with head coach Luke Walton.
Only time will tell just how involved Johnson will be in the front office, but he told Peter that he expects to have a defined role by the end of the season. Perhaps the fact that he and Kupchak were both in attendance at Pauley Pavilion to check out UCLA and Oregon on Thursday bodes well for the longtime GM’s future, but make no mistake about it — Johnson sounds like a man that wants to have significant control over the Lakers, just as he did for so many years as a player.
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